Implausible as it may seem, as the Fukushima Daiichi disaster has grown ever more cataclysmic, nuclear energy advocates have come out of the woodwork to tout the virtues of nuclear as a “safe” form of energy. Safe? Are you kidding me? Last night, rain containing measurable levels of radiation from Fukushima Daiichi fell on the [...]
Implausible as it may seem, as the Fukushima Daiichi disaster has grown ever more cataclysmic, nuclear energy advocates have come out of the woodwork to tout the virtues of nuclear as a “safe” form of energy. Safe? Are you kidding me? Last night, rain containing measurable levels of radiation from Fukushima Daiichi fell on the east coast of North America. We will surely be on the wrong side of the looking glass when we start believing that an energy source which has contaminated huge swaths of the globe with hazardous waste is “safe.” If nuclear energy is safe, then Hitler was a charter member of the Anti-Defamation League.
Still, the pro-nuke crowd argues that, compared to fossil fuels, nuclear is an emissions free energy source that merits a much cleaner, greener image than its dirty cousin, coal. That’s sort of like saying, nuclear energy is safe because it isn’t as lethal as cyanide tablets. First of all, nuclear vs. coal is a false dichotomy; that is, if we deplore the hazards of coal, then our only option must be a wholesale embrace of nuclear. Baloney. There are lots of other, better energy-production options (such as, solar, wind, geothermal, heliostat, fusion, etc.) that, if we only invest in them sufficiently, will light the way to a safer, more secure, renewable energy future.
Certainly, it is true that coal is a dreadfully polluting form of energy and, if the human race has a modicum of sense, we will need to stop mining and burning so much of it. However, the idea that we can only rescue ourselves from a dirty, anachronistic fossil fuel by heating our homes with a WWII-era bomb-making technology makes about as much sense as using a gun to cure a migraine.
Also, I think it is high time to put the nuclear energy industry’s safety record on trial. Since 1951, about 450 nuclear power plants have come online all over the world. Of that total, three facilities have experienced major and “improbable” failures that have, nonetheless, threatened the health and well-being of millions of people. Thus, as things currently stand, there is approximately a 1/150 chance that any particular nuclear power plant will have a major accident. In case you were wondering, those are not very long odds. Just imagine having a major accident every 150th time that you climb behind the wheel of your car. What’s even more scary is that, as the years go by, aging nuke plants will become more technologically out-of-date and more susceptible to accidents.
No matter how shrill the pro-nuke rhetoric becomes, the facts won’t change. Disasters are a routine part nuclear power production. The more nuclear power plants that we construct, the more disasters that we will inevitably witness.
Enough is enough.
It takes genius to split atoms, but it takes an even higher order of genius to split atoms safely. Unfortunately, we aren’t that smart yet. Hopefully, we’ll wise up before it’s too late.
No related posts.
About the Author: Tim McGettigan is a professor of sociology at Colorado State University – Pueblo. The Socjournal is an outstanding resource for all things sociological. Too often, the media examines social issues from a singularly economic perspective. If you really want to understand how the social world works, it's better to use a broader, clearer lens. In this column, I will discuss a variety of forces (technological, scientific, political, cultural, and, yeah okay, economic) that are currently reshaping the globe. Whether or not the world is changing for the better is an open question — and, thus, it's a question that I look forward to debating at length in this column.